Real-Life Perspectives

Feeling Left Out in a Connected World

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One morning, my friend's teenage daughter woke up and checked Instagram (part of most teens' morning routines). Her daughter saw a post of three of her girlfriends who had gone to the mall together and didn’t invite her. She was upset and told her mom her feelings were hurt.

When my friend told me what had happened to her daughter, I could SO relate! A few years ago, I went through a similar experience with my daughter. She found out from a Facebook post that some of her good friends had gone to the beach and she wasn’t included. She was devastated that she was left out. As a parent, it was upsetting to me, too.

For decades, friends have been getting together, inviting this one or that one to hang out at the beach or the mall or for a sleepover, and someone inevitably gets left out. But tweens and teens today are much more likely to find out they have been excluded because EVERYTHING is posted online in real time thanks to digital updates on trending social media like Snapchat and Instagram.

Unfortunately, during the teen years, our kids struggle with confidence and self-esteem and on-and-off friendships and relationships. Being excluded from one event can easily seem like a BIG deal.

I feel like most kids aren’t posting with the intent to make others feel bad. They’re just trying to be cool or share pics of themselves having fun. So how do you help your teen navigate the new social reality that puts everyone's lives on public display?

When my daughter experienced this type of exclusion, I told her: “You’re just not going to be included in every get together and you have to be okay with that.” I also told her she may be the one who accidentally excludes a friend one day and she needs to be careful about what she posts and mindful of how it could hurt someone’s feelings.

My teenage son handles it differently when he sees on Instagram that he has been left out of a get together: “If I really want to hang out with those friends, I ask them if I can hang out with them next time, or I take the initiative to be the one to make the plans.”

Of course, there’s a big difference between posting group pictures or party photos in which someone is excluded by accident and posting the photos on purpose to taunt someone. When that happens, we need to listen to our teens' feelings and let them know it's normal to feel sad or upset. We have to help them build confidence to put the online postings in perspective.

It's tempting to say to your daughter, "It's not a big deal. You won't even remember you didn't get invited to the beach ten years from now." But psychologists say teens live entirely in the now, so we have to help them cope with what's going on in the moment and talk them through the best approach to dealing with their feelings.

We all know that teens aren’t going to stop sharing their “hanging out, having a blast with my friends” pictures or videos on social channels any time soon. But encouraging your teen to think about who may see the pictures can go a long way toward avoiding hurt feelings and teaching them how to cope when it inevitably happens to them can be just as important for raising their self-esteem.

Guest post by Cindy Goodman, Raising Teens Blog

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